A veteran Conservative councillor, who has been one of the most significant and controversial figures in East Lancashire politics for four decades, has been dropped from his borough's top team.

Deputy leader of Hyndburn Council, Cllr Peter Britcliffe, has lost his place in its cabinet in a reshuffle, just days before Thursday's local elections.

First elected to the authority in 1984, he has been its leader three times (including as stand-in for the last four months) and has served as the borough's Mayor and on Lancashire County Council.

The St Andrew's ward borough and Oswaldtwistle county councillor will now devote more of his time to campaigning for his daughter Sara ahead of the upcoming general election, where she is aiming to be re-elected as MP for Hyndburn after winning the seat in 2019.

Lancashire Telegraph: Cllr Marlene Howarth has removed Peter Britcliffe from his post as her deputyCllr Marlene Howarth has removed Peter Britcliffe from his post as her deputy

Cllr Britcliffe's post as statutory deputy leader of the council will now be filled by economic development boss Cllr Zak Khan, and his finance portfolio has been taken by Immanuel ward's Cllr John Allen.

Hyndburn Council leader Cllr Marlene Haworth - who recently resumed duties after recovering from a stroke suffered in December - said: "Peter did not resign, it was my decision to drop him from the cabinet.

"Things change. I think he needed to take a rest.

"I think he is tired. He knew it was coming and I think he wanted to go.

"Peter has been a great asset to the borough and has worked very hard for its benefit.

"I think he will prove himself as a mentor to our younger councillors where he will be more use to the group. There is no ill feeling.

Lancashire Telegraph: Cllr Zak Khan will become deputy leaderCllr Zak Khan will become deputy leader

"I took the decision now to reshuffle the cabinet so we can hit the ground running if we are still running Hyndburn Council after the local elections.

"I also wanted to end the rumours that I was standing down as leader.

"I did think about it but I am not."

Cllr Britcliffe, who twice stood unsuccessfully for election as Hyndburn's MP in 1997 and 2001, confirmed he did not formally resign his cabinet posts.

He said: "When I was acting up as leader, I was determined that when Marlene came back I would stand aside.

"I really need to concentrate on my work for the people of Oswaldtwistle and to protect our Green Belt.

"Now I am going to devote more time to getting my daughter re-elected.

"I am not annoyed."

A Hyndburn Labour spokesperson said: "Labour is fighting back for Hyndburn and it is becoming clear Hyndburn Conservatives are more interested in fighting each other and playing out a civil war that has relegated Cllr Britcliffe to the back benches."

Blackburn with Darwen Council's Labour leader Cllr Phil Riley said: "Cllr Britcliffe has played a huge role in East Lancashire Conservative politics for decades. This is a surprise."

The Conservatives currently run a minority administration in Hyndburn, with 16 councillors to Labour's 16, two Greens and one Independent.

Council elections take place on Thursday, May 2.